(Photo by Columbia Pictures/ courtesy Everett Collection)
All Seth Rogen Movies, Ranked By Tomatometer
One-season wonder Freaks and Geeks had a startling amount of its young alums go on to have successful Hollywood careers, Seth Rogen chief among them. He followed mentor Judd Apatow into the movie game with The 40 Year-Old Virgin, starring in a memorable supporting role. Rogen was then upgraded to lead status for Apatow’s follow-up Knocked Up, and the movie’s critical and box office success showed Virgin was no fluke, heralding a significant sea change in mainstream American comedy. Rogen has remained the face of this bong- and bro-tastic style of comedy, also featuring big rips of heartfelt emotion – like Animal House by way of James L. Brooks – in repeated movie hits like Superbad, Pineapple Express, This Is the End, Neighbors, and The Disaster Artist.
He’s been amassing an impressive résumé as producer (not just on his own starring films, but also the likes of Blockers and Good Boys) and director, helming This Is the End, The Interview, and episodes of Future Man and Preacher. His latest comedy was An American Pickle. And now we’re looking at all of Seth Rogen’s movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand have enough chemistry to drive a solidly assembled comedy; unfortunately, The Guilt Trip has a lemon of a script and is perilously low on comedic fuel.
Synopsis: Before embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, Andy Brewster pays a visit to his overbearing mother, Joyce. That proves to... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it can take pride in its visual achievements,The Lion King is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved--though for some fans that may just be enough.
Synopsis: Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But... [More]
Critics Consensus: Brisk, funny, and sweetly raunchy, For a Good Time, Call... adds to the recent string of R-rated female comedies while serving as an overdue coming out party for the charming Ari Graynor.
Synopsis: Reserved Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller) and bubbly Katie (Ari Graynor) are polar opposites and past enemies. However, when both gals... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn't quite as consistent as the classics.
Synopsis: For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on... [More]
Critics Consensus:Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the requisite visual splendor, but like its rotund protagonist, this sequel's narrative is also surprisingly nimble, adding up to animated fun for the whole family.
Synopsis: Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he's going to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
Synopsis: High-school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have high hopes for a graduation party: The co-dependent teens plan... [More]
Thumbnail image: Columbia Pictures, Universal / courtesy Everett Collection
The 200 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time
Hooking up? No problem. “Meet cute” at the book shop? Happens all the time. Finding the right one, falling in love, and getting married? What else are you gonna do? But compiling the ultimate list of the Freshest romantic comedies of all time? It’s complicated.
For our list of the 200 best romantic comedies of all time, we searched high and low throughout movie history for every permutation of (hilarious) courtship and love captured on camera. We have the dazzling wit of the early studio system (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby), the realistic cynicism of the ’70s (Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl), and the sweeping romance in-between (The Apartment, Roman Holiday). There was plenty to find in the John Hughes, teen-driven era (Say Anything…, Pretty in Pink), and the bubbly ’90s decade that followed (Groundhog Day, Four Weddings and a Funeral, While You Were Sleeping). Then we dabbled in 21st century raunch (Knocked Up) and twee ((500) Days of Summer), leading into our current era of new voices declaring that they too are entitled to their own messy relationship stories (The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians).
And in our most recent major update, we’ve added the latest and greatest, including Charlize Theron’s first dip into the genre (Long Shot), indie darlings (Palm Springs), and the farcical (Isn’t It Romantic). We also expanded our reach in LGBTQ (Happiest Season, Edge of Seventeen, Get Real, Life Partners, Saving Face) and African-American films (Top Five, The Best Man). And expect to see more international rom-coms, with plenty of additions among Spanish-language (You’re Killing Me Susana, Everybody Loves Somebody) and French cinema (Romantics Anonymous, The Spanish Apartment).
The only stipulation for a rom-com to get a shot at love on this list was achieving a minimum of 20 reviews, and then we sorted the qualifying titles with our weighted formula, which takes into account factors like the number of reviews movies received and their year of release. And because we want you feeling red, and not seeing red, we want to prepare you for some of the relatively low placements for beloved classics like Pretty Woman, Love Actually, and Sleepless in Seattle. The Tomatometer, just like the heart, does not deceive.
Ready to dive into the sea of love? Then continue on with open arms into Rotten Tomatoes’ 200 best romantic comedies of all time!
Critics Consensus:Music & Lyrics is a light and pleasant romantic comedy that succeeds because of the considerable charm of its co-stars. The music segments featuring Hugh Grant are worth the price of admission.
Synopsis: Former music superstar Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) used to pack them in back in the 1980s, but now he is... [More]
Critics Consensus:Reality Bites may be too slick to fulfill its promise as a profound statement on Generation X, but an appealing ensemble and romantic sizzle make for an entertaining dive into the ennui of youth.
Synopsis: After college, Lelaina (Winona Ryder) films a documentary about herself and friends as they flounder in their attempts to forge... [More]
Critics Consensus: It doesn't always find comfortable ground between broad comedy and social commentary, but lively performances -- especially from Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack -- enrich In & Out's mixture of laughs and sexual tolerance.
Synopsis: Upon winning an Academy Award, actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) honors his high school teacher, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), who... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it's hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured -- and surprisingly clever -- look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth.
Synopsis: A New York college adviser (Josh Radnor) becomes involved with a student (Elizabeth Olsen) when he returns to his alma... [More]
Critics Consensus: While it doesn't subvert the genre as incisively as it thinks it does, Celeste and Jesse Forever is a shrewd rom-com that benefits from its likable cast and trumpets the arrival of Rashida Jones as a bona fide big screen talent.
Synopsis: Longtime sweethearts Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) married young, but are now drifting apart. Celeste is an ambitious... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Trevor Nunn makes some questionable choices, but his stellar cast -- which includes Helena Bonham-Carter, Ben Kingsley, and Nigel Hawthorne -- more than rises to the material.
Synopsis: A shipwreck separates Viola (Imogen Stubbs) from her twin brother, Sebastian (Steven Mackintosh). Believing him to be dead, Viola disguises... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though it sometimes feels like a television sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is good-hearted, lovable, and delightfully eccentric, with a sharp script and lead performance from Nia Vardalos.
Synopsis: Everyone in the Portokalos family worries about Toula (Nia Vardalos). Still unmarried at 30 years old, she works at Dancing... [More]
Critics Consensus:While You Were Sleeping is built wholly from familiar ingredients, but assembled with such skill -- and with such a charming performance from Sandra Bullock -- that it gives formula a good name.
Synopsis: Lonely transit worker Lucy Eleanor Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) pulls her longtime crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), from the path of an... [More]
Critics Consensus:Results moves stubbornly at its own deliberate pace, but the well-chosen cast -- and writer-director Andrew Bujalski's insightful observations -- offer rich rewards for patient viewers.
Synopsis: Personal trainers (Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders) are charged with whipping a newly wealthy and highly unmotivated slob (Kevin Corrigan) into... [More]
Critics Consensus: Anchored by dazzling performances from Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger, as well as Cameron Crowe's tender direction, Jerry Maguire meshes romance and sports with panache.
Synopsis: When slick sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a crisis of conscience, he pens a heartfelt company-wide memo that... [More]
Critics Consensus: With a terrific cast and a surfeit of visual razzle dazzle, Crazy Rich Asians takes a satisfying step forward for screen representation while deftly drawing inspiration from the classic -- and still effective -- rom-com formula.
Synopsis: Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. She's also surprised... [More]
Critics Consensus: A career highlight for Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve benefits from Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda's sparkling chemistry -- and a script that inspired countless battle-of-the-sexes comedies.
Synopsis: It's no accident when wealthy Charles (Henry Fonda) falls for Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Jean is a con artist with her... [More]
Ahead of the movie’s release, Apatow sat down with us to break down the mechanics and stories behind some of the funniest scenes he’s put on the screen – including an messy pool fight that’s getting the biggest laughs from audiences who’ve seen his newest film.
In 2019, Rotten Tomatoes turns 21, and to mark the occasion we’re celebrating with a series of features that look back at the brightest moments on screen of the past two decades – and one year – and the things that have us excited for the future.
Since its inception in 1987, South by Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW or just “South By”) has grown to become one of the most celebrated pop culture events in the world, with its unparalleled mix of music, film, and digital media. It’s one of the best places to scope out both established artists and rising talents, as well as all kinds of innovations in interactive entertainment.
In other words, it should be no surprise that some heavy hitters have graced the stages and screens in Austin, TX, and this is especially true of the film division. In the past 21 years, SXSW has served as the proving ground for up-and-coming filmmakers hoping to make a big splash, and it’s also played a big role in hyping up eventual cult classics and box office hits. With that in mind, and with SXSW 2019 kicking off this weekend, we decided to look back at some of the most memorable movie premieres that have happened at the festival during RT’s existence. Read on for a trip down memory lane at South By.
Director Morgan Neville didn’t even know that SXSW had a film festival component when he was looking to premiere his first documentary, a sometimes breezy and wistful look at an evolving Los Angeles through the lens of the people who shaped it. Variety’s review of the premiere decried the film’s listlessness and its “graceless and too abrupt” editing, the latter of which actually tapped into the associative, nonlinear style that would set Neville’s unorthodox documentarian work apart from the pack. Neville remembers the premiere as “low key” and intimate, surrounded by fellow “neophyte filmmakers” showing their wares. Shotgun Freeway was named runner up for Best Documentary Feature that year, and Neville would go on to win an Oscar (for 20 Feet from Stardom) and an Emmy (for Best of Enemies) and then break box office records with his film Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.
Sean Baker’s first feature followed a group of white suburban young men in a slice-of-life tale, showing the blunt inner workings of the male psyche. It’s not surprising that the town that embraced Slacker fell in love with Baker and his objective, almost journalistic film work. As Baker told SXSW World: “I might not have kept going if it wasn’t for SXSW.” Reviews for the low-budget gem weren’t necessarily glowing, but they hit on Baker’s strength of presenting a character’s world with honesty, a trait he would carry on as he delved into the lives of disparate women in the San Fernando Valley (Starlet), Chinese immigrants in New York (Take Out), a trans sex worker in L.A. (Tangerine), and single moms in Kissimmee (The Florida Project).
(Photo by Thinkfilm courtesy Everett Collection)
Spellbound(2002)97%: A Documentary D-E-L-I-G-H-T (And Awards Contender)
Director Jeffrey Blitz wasn’t even present for the first SXSW screening of his spelling bee documentary. Nervous, he’d taken a flight out from a commercial job and arrived outside the theater just as it was letting out. He told SXSW World: “I heard [people] raving about this spelling bee documentary they had just seen,” and thought it was a prank. Blitz’s first feature, Spellbound won the Documentary Feature Jury Award and became the festival’s first breakout hit, winning an Emmy and getting nominated for an Academy Award.
Guillermo del Toro had already directed cult classics Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and Blade II before he took aim at the film adaptation of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic. The unofficial midnight world premiere of the film brought del Toro, Mignola, and star Ron Perlman to Austin, and the ending credits were met with what the Austin Chronicle called “thunderous cheers.” The film became a box office success, grossing nearly $100 million and spawning a sequel, but it also sealed SXSW as a midnights-friendly destination.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact the Duplass brothers had on both filmmaking and the film culture of SXSW. The Puffy Chair would mark their first feature, but the pair had already premiered a few of their shorts at the fest, creating a kind of community with like-minded filmmakers like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski, who premiered Kissing on the Mouth and Mutual Appreciation, respectively, alongside The Puffy Chair. From this year forward, SXSW was known as the place for Mumblecore, and the Duplass brothers would go on to bring their style to the mainstream.
Film festivals haven’t always been receptive to comedy, especially if the film is a documentary about lesser-known comics popular only on the alt-comedy circuits. But director Michael Blieden found a home for his debut documentary feature with SXSW and brought Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, and Brian Posehn to the masses of Austin with a premiere that included live stand-up sets by the film’s subjects. The Austin Chronicle called the film “incisively bawdy,” and the well-received live performance set the stage for the massive influx of comedy acts that would flock to the festival every year. Oswalt, Galifianakis, Bamford, and Posehn became some of the defining comics of their generation.
(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
Knocked Up(2007)89%: Apatow Finds His Testing Ground
Judd Apatow raked in the praise for his directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but the idea of a comedy with a runtime more than two hours long was still a novelty when his follow-up Knocked Up tested the waters in Austin at a sneak preview. Variety called it “uproarious,” and attendees noted the laughter was so loud in the theater that a good number of the punchlines couldn’t even be heard. Viewers of that preview wondered whether Paramount would cut the film down to under 90 minutes — nope! SXSW became Apatow’s proving ground that longer, more thoughtful comedy could play to wide audiences.
With a budget of $15,000, Mumblecore comedy Nights and Weekends brought Joe Swanberg back to SXSW, but this time with a relatively unknown co-director/co-writer/co-star — Greta Gerwig. Swanberg and Gerwig had collaborated before on 2007’s Hannah Takes the Stairs, but this film would mark Gerwig’s directorial debut. Noel Murray at the AV Club said, “Swanberg and Gerwig also have a gift for constructing the kind of moments rarely seen in contemporary American independent film.” Gerwig had always intended to become a playwright, and though it would be another nine years before she would direct again (Lady Bird), that effort would earn her Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
SXSW was no stranger to the type of romantic verité filmmaking Austinite Richard Linklater revived from the Left Bank French New Wave with Before Sunrise. But Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy pried the genre from white hands and showed two African American characters talking from dawn ’til dusk about art, culture, and love. The film starred the unknown Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, but the buzz out of SXSW was enough to propel Medicine to multiple Indie Spirit Awards nominations, inspiring a generation of black filmmakers, including Justin Simien, Lena Waithe, Ava DuVernay, and Terence Nance.
Lena Dunham’s hour-long feature debut Creative Nonfiction showed so much promise at 2008’s SXSW that when she returned in 2010 with a proper full-length feature, Tiny Furniture, critics were already hip to the wünderkind’s comic sensibilities. The film took the top narrative feature prize, with Dunham accepting a breakout award for women directors, leading IFC Films to acquire and distribute Tiny Furniture. Dunham’s relationship with SXSW continues, and the fest has become a destination for young female auteurs, including Julia Hart, Stella Meghie, and Nijla Mu’min.
(Photo by Liam Daniel/Screen Gems courtesy Everett Collection)
By the time Joe Cornish premiered his feature debut, Attack the Block, SXSW programming had already become known for its Midnights section. Fans of director Edgar Wright knew the Shaun of the Dead helmer had executive produced for Cornish and packed the theater in anticipation of a Wright-anointed genre film, but the general reception was that Attack was so much better than they could even hope for. Writing for Cinemablend, Matt Patches called the film a throwback to early Peter Jackson and said audiences emitted an “audible, pleasantly shocked yelp” throughout the gory action sequences.
Undefeated(2011) : An Oscar Winner Starts Its Journey
Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin knew they were “no-name directors” when they applied to SXSW with their documentary debut about a struggling Memphis football team. The Austin Chronicle said, “Undefeated isn’t just a great sports doc, it’s a great documentary. Period.” The directors credit the festival with helping the film sell for a seven-figure deal after an all-night auction, get distribution, and earn widespread acclaim, leading to their winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary. “That definitely changed our lives, and it all started at SXSW,” Lindsay and Martin told SXSW World.
Paul Feig had already made a name for himself acting in and directing numerous comedies, but when he brought his work-in-progress Bridesmaids to SXSW for a midnight premiere, he says not a single person in the audience knew anything about the film. On top of that, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph weren’t completely known outside of their individual runs on SNL. But Feig said to SXSW World that when the audience burst into laughter that “it was possibly the greatest night of my career.” Bridesmaids introduced audiences to superstar Melissa McCarthy and raked in a whopping $288 million at the box office.
At the SXSW world premiere of Harmony Korine’s teen day-glo crime thriller, only a few audience members squeamish from the provocateur’s film walked out, but those who stayed raucously applauded such an audacious movie. At the same time, fledgling distribution company A24 was trying to make a name for itself and saw the perfect opportunity in Korine. They purchased the film right out of the festival, marking themselves as a company to take a chance on artists and weirdos and bolstering SXSW as a destination for film acquisitions.
(Photo by Cinedigm courtesy Everett Collection)
Short Term 12(2013)98%: The Stars of Tomorrow in a Move That Sets the New Standard
Director Destin Daniel Cretton specifically aimed to finish his feature about a young staff worker in a residential treatment facility for the SXSW deadlines. Producer Asher Goldstein said it felt like the perfect “cultural fit” for this story about simple people trying to live their lives, starring a cast of complete then-unknowns, including Brie Larson, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, and Lakeith Stanfield. Before the film even premiered at SXSW, sales negotiations began, signaling Short Term 12 was something special. It won both the Grand Jury and Audience Award for Narrative Feature, and prompted The Atlantic in 2014 to ask “Who’s This Year’s Short Term 12?” at SXSW.
Director Karyn Kusama stripped her style down to its indie roots for her horror-thriller The Invitation. She’d faced an uphill battle with high-budget flops, like Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, but burst back on the scene and out of director jail with a psychological stunner she filmed on a bare budget in a single location. Midnighter attendees of the premiere immediately buzzed about the film, with Justin Chang, writing for Variety, calling it a “perfectly pitched exercise in psychological dread.” The Invitation hit many best-of lists when it premiered theatrically, but Kusama credits SXSW with the relaunch of her career. “SXSW means discovery, it means surprise, and it means a jolt of energy, which was there in abundance for us,” she told SXSW World.
Trey Edward Shults’ short film Krisha won big at SXSW 2014. When he stretched that drama — about a woman who reconnects with her family over a disastrous Thanksgiving weekend — into a feature, Shults naturally wanted it to premiere at SXSW as well. For the Q&A portion, Shults brought his stars, his real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild and mother Robyn Fairchild, for an intimate talk about family and filmmaking. “I’ve been a professional actor my whole life, but I had no ambition,” Krisha said, before crediting her nephew for sparking a creative flame in her. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Filmmaking, and the audience went wild when Shults’ entire cast/family stormed the stage.
Tower(2016)99%: A Tense, Moving Hometown Achievement
Keith Maitland is an Austin director whose films revolve around the people, places, and major events of Texas. His documentary Tower was based on a Texas Monthly story from Pamela Colloff, which walked people through the terrifying 96-minute ordeal of Charles Whitman climbing the UT Austin tower and opening fire on a campus of innocent people. The SXSW premiere was an emotional affair, with Eric Kohn of IndieWire saying that Tower “imbues the catastrophe with renewed urgency.” The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Documentary Feature, and Maitland told SXSW World that “sharing this deeply emotional story here, where it happened, was one of the most cathartic cinematic experiences I’ve ever witnessed.”
Before there was Get Out, there was Peter Atencio’s crime comedy Keanu, co-written by Alex Rubens and Jordan Peele in his feature-writing debut. Some fans of the stars’ Comedy Central show Key & Peele waited in line for three hours for the midnight premiere, and Peele and Keegan-Michael Key began throwing out stuffed cats to an audience dreading a time change and an hour lost the next morning. The reception to the film was only warm, but it was enough to propel Peele into writing his next feature, which would earn him an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Ana Asencio’s gritty, spare, 80-minute thriller marked a wicked debut for the writer-director-producer-star, who’d spent a decade perfecting the script. And SXSW proved a perfect match for a 16 mm film about an immigrant woman caught in the most tragic day of her life. At the premiere, audiences gasped, shook by tension and an unnerving ending. Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films snapped up the rights and said, “Most Beautiful Island is a memorable film, which captured hearts, minds, and the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW,” and although Asencio hasn’t released a follow-up yet, that ending she wrote earned a place on Vulture’s “100 Scares That Shaped Horror.”
A Quiet Place(2018)96%: Silence on Screen, Screams in the Theater as Box Office Monster Is Born
John Krasinski’s horror debut earned what Variety writer Ramin Setoodeh called “enough shrieks inside the theater to please [the] director” at the film’s SXSW premiere. As Setoodeh pointed out, SXSW had become a proving ground for out-of-the-box studio releases, and the fanfare inside the theater that night signaled to Paramount Pictures they’d have a hit on their hands. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote that “the movie maintains a minimalist dread throughout, with every footstep or sudden move carrying the potential for instant death.” A Quiet Place went on to earn $340 million at the box office, making SXSW a reliable litmus test yet again.
“Babies!! They’re babies!!” Yes, Shredder, they are babies, and one day when you’re all grown-up, you too will appreciate the miracle of birth. Just ask Bridget Jones’ Baby — whose mother endured ugly Christmas sweaters and middle-aged manfights and a previous sequel where we assume stuff happened — crowning this Friday after gestating years in development hell. But because Rotten Tomatoes is never one to pass up a cause célèbre, here’s this week’s gallery of 24 most momentous movie babies!
With this weekend’s War Dogs, Jonah Hill teams up with Miles Teller to tell the reality-inspired tale of two guys out to strike it rich as arms dealers. It’s just the latest in a series of eclectic roles for Hill, who made his name as a member of the Apatow comedy stable before branching out into more dramatic fare, and we’re here to celebrate it with a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from his growing filmography. It’s time for Total Recall!
Years after they roomed together as young comics with showbiz dreams, Adam Sandler and writer/director/producer Judd Apatow reunited for 2009’s Funny People, which surrounded Sandler with a crowd of comedic talent that included multiple members of the Apatow stable — including Seth Rogen, who plays an aspiring comedian who lucks into a friendship with Sandler’s embittered superstar, and Hill, who plays Rogen’s roommate and a fellow veteran of the stand-up circuit whose own career ambitions end up getting tangled in the complicated relationship between Rogen and Sandler’s characters. The movie’s 146-minute length turned off a number of critics, but it was just right for Ben Lyons of At the Movies, who wrote that “Apatow has always found a balance of heart and humor in his best films, and Funny People is no exception.”
Hill and Russell Brand triggered a few laughs during their scenes together in Forgetting Sarah Marshall — so when it was decided that Brand would reprise his character in the Marshall spinoff Get Him to the Greek, it was only natural that the duo should be reunited. Here, Brand’s Aldous Snow must be shepherded to a crucial gig through a landmine of bad decisions and irresponsible behavior, with responsibility for his whereabouts falling to an increasingly overmatched label rep played by Hill. “The movie’s a good, rude commercial comedy,” argued the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “How many good movies have we even seen this year?”
Hill earned his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his work in The Wolf of Wall Street, a luridly over-the-top Martin Scorsese epic that uses the real-life exploits of disgraced stockbroker Jordan Belfort as the launchpad for a wild-eyed look at modern capitalism — and three hours of drug-fueled insanity. Always entertaining as part of a duo, Hill turns in some of his best work as a foil for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Belfort, playing the comparatively less unscrupulous part in a gonzo dramatization of one of Wall Street’s more infamous cautionary tales. “For three hours the movie operates at a ridiculous comedic pitch. You never forget you’re at the circus,” Wesley Morris wrote for Grantland. “You never lose sight of the lawlessness, the reckless pleasure, the sheer lunacy and lack of regulation.”
The 21st century has brought us no shortage of comedies about schlubby man-children, but Cyrus is something different. Rather than going broad and over-the-top with the story of an overgrown mama’s boy (Hill) who plants himself squarely between his mom (Marisa Tomei) and her well-meaning new suitor (John C. Reilly), writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass gave their seemingly tired premise a fresh mumblecore spin, playing up the sphincter-tightening awkwardness of the situation and trusting their talented cast to imbue the characters with three-dimensional honesty. “I’ve seldom seen,” mused the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, “a film in which three intelligent, articulate people make so many penetrating observations about themselves, and address their bizarre situation so directly, without providing, or indeed possessing, the slightest clue.”
We’ve seen plenty of movies about the end of civilization, but they’ve all focused on the apocalyptic problems of ordinary people while neglecting to imagine what those last few days on earth might be like for celebrities. Enter This Is the End, which imagines what it might be like if disaster struck Los Angeles while James Franco was hosting a house party. Featuring Hill, Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride — among plenty of others — playing fictionalized (and generally obnoxious) versions of themselves, it combines a fresh take on the apocalyptic comedy with the fun of watching movie stars make fun of themselves. As J.R. Jones argued for the Chicago Reader, “Their big joke is to literalize the Book of Revelations, but snaking around this is a biting contempt for the entertainment business, their own bad movies, and the social privilege these confer.”
A movie about a TV show that wasn’t exactly a classic in the first place has no business being awesome, and a buddy-cop picture doesn’t seem like the most natural environment for testing out Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s screen chemistry. All of which is pretty much exactly why the Jump Street franchise has had such a blockbuster time of it on the big screen: the duo’s easy banter, coupled with the freewheeling attitude of a pair of films that went meta on their medium in increasingly bonkers ways, added up to two critical and commercial hits. Whether we’ll ever get that rumored Jump Street/Men in Black crossover remains an open question, but for now, we’ve got the movies that moved the Atlantic’s Christopher Orr to write, “Self-referential irony is hardly a new gimmick, having served as the underlying premise for such franchises as Scream and Austin Powers, but rarely has it been indulged with such fervor.”
The Coen brothers have a terrific eye for talent and enough clout to hire just about any actor they see fit, so the opportunity to star in one of their films isn’t something many stars would take lightly — even if the role in question isn’t necessarily the biggest in the movie. For example, here’s Hail, Caesar!, a Coens spectacular that uses a bustling ensemble of famous faces (including George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, and — you guessed it — Jonah Hill) to tell the madcap tale of a doofus actor in ’50s Hollywood who gets himself kidnapped, spurring his studio to enlist the efforts of their in-house fixer (inspired by real-life movie biz legend Eddie Mannix) to secure his return. That description just scratches the surface of an old-school singing, dancing extravaganza that simultaneously celebrates and sends up old-school cinema; if the end result is a little unwieldy, most critics felt its deficiencies were far more than outweighed by its charms. “This,” opined Richard Roeper for the Chicago Sun-Times, “is one of my favorite movies ever made about making movies.”
A high school loss-of-virginity flick in the grand tradition of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie, Superbad teamed Hill and Michael Cera with newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse as desperately horny teens on a quest to secure booze for a house party. It may have been embarrassingly familiar, but screenwriter Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, nonetheless managed to squeeze fresh laughs (and plenty of ticket receipts) from it — not to mention kudos from critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who wrote, “for pure laughs, for the experience of just sitting in a chair and breaking up every minute or so, Superbad is 2007’s most successful comedy.”
After making a brief appearance in Judd Apatow’s 40-Year-Old Virgin, Hill took on a more substantial role in the follow-up, Knocked Up, which paired rumpled slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) with gorgeous E! Network employee Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) for a look at what can happen when you head to a club, have a few too many drinks, and don’t give a lot of thought to who comes home with you. (This is Hollywood, of course, so what ends up happening is everlasting love, but not before a lot of funnier, more unpleasant consequences.) An enormous box office success, Knocked Up offered Hill an opportunity to reel off a few funny lines, cemented Apatow’s standing as a purveyor of fine adult comedies, and earned the adoration of critics such as Stephanie Zacharek of Salon, who called it “Hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we’ve done so.”
As a (freakishly entertaining) by-the-numbers account of how the Oakland A’s used newly adapted metrics to turn conventional baseball wisdom on its head, Michael Lewis’ Moneyball seemed like one of the least cinematic bestsellers to have its film rights optioned by a major studio — and after directors David Frankel and Steven Soderbergh departed the project, it looked like it might be destined for the scrap heap. But with Bennett Miller behind the cameras and Hill demonstrating his Oscar-nominated dramatic chops opposite Brad Pitt — not to mention an Aaron Sorkin screenplay — it ended up being not only a six-time Academy Awards nominee, but a $110 million box office hit. “Baseball fans know this story,” admitted USA Today’s Claudia Puig, “but Miller puts it all in fascinating context. This is a thinking person’s baseball movie, a more complex version of the inspirational sports story.”
Judd Apatow isn’t just a producer, of course; he’s also a director and writer, and many of his movies find him occupying all three chairs. Still, it’s his list of production credits that runs longest – and may contain a few surprises for those who haven’t been following his career closely – so we thought this weekend’s Apatow-produced Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping would be the perfect time to give them the Total Recall treatment. We did get a little technical, and cut out the films where he served as an executive producer (bye bye, Heavyweights, Celtic Pride, Kicking and Screaming, and The TV Set) as well as associate producer (thus excising 1992’s Crossing the Bridge), and popular favorites like Anchorman, Pineapple Express, and Step Brothers didn’t make the cut. Don’t worry, though – that still leaves us plenty to discuss. Ready to get started? It’s Total Recall time!
Before he launched a second career as an agitator for social justice and economic equality, Russell Brand was a pretty funny guy — and although his particular shtick definitely wasn’t right for every role, it could be quite effective in the proper context. For example, there’s Brand’s scene-stealing supporting turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which he played the cheerfully hedonistic rock star that the title character hooks up with after dumping poor Jason Segel — a role he reprised a couple years later for Get Him to the Greek. Here, Brand’s Aldous Snow must be shepherded to a crucial gig through a landmine of bad decisions and irresponsible behavior, with responsibility for his whereabouts falling to an increasingly overmatched label rep (Jonah Hill). “The movie’s a good, rude commercial comedy,” argued the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips. “How many good movies have we even seen this year?”
Judd Apatow productions are known for their skillful use of humor that feels real — sometimes squirm-inducingly — so the news that he was co-writing and producing a mock biopic of a legendary musician named Dewey Cox (and that Cox would be played by the mercilessly funny John C. Reilly) was greeted with enthusiasm by critics and fans hungry for more 40-Year-Old Virgin-style laughs. Ultimately, expectations for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story proved slightly unreasonable; although critics applauded the film, moviegoers chose not to follow Apatow down this particular path, and it failed to recoup its budget. Still, despite being one of Apatow’s rare commercial misfires, Walk Hard is one of the better-reviewed entries on his resume, and boasts the approval of no less a critical luminary than Roger Ebert, who applauded its restraint when he wrote, “instead of sending everything over the top at high energy, like Top Secret or Airplane!, they allow Reilly to more or less actually play the character, so that, against all expectations, some scenes actually approach real sentiment.”
Pee-Wee Herman entered the 1990s as a fairly tired joke (and an unwillingly dirty one at that), but given enough time and nostalgia, almost everything old is new again. Herman’s creator, Paul Reubens, discovered as much after exhuming the character for a series of public appearances that led into a revival of his stage show — and a lengthy development process for a third Pee-Wee movie. Reubens ultimately hooked up with Apatow to produce Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, a 2016 release that bowed on Netflix alongside its theatrical run. While the movie’s rollout might have been cutting edge, the story — and Pee-Wee himself — remained substantially the same as his heyday, adding up to a film offering a high-grade flashback to a franchise many critics remembered so fondly they were willing to let its narrative deficiencies slide. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Wiegand put it, “After all these years — his and ours — Pee-wee Herman is still a Peter Pan who can lead us back to innocence with a corny joke or a childish jape.”
Judd Apatow isn’t the first person you’d think of to produce a movie from the guy who gave us the tenderly mournful indie drama Once, but that’s just what we got with 2014’s Begin Again — and it was pretty darn good, too. Admittedly, the movie offered something of a slicker spin on Once‘s story of two damaged souls connecting through music, but while there were similarities between the two films, they weren’t overwhelming. And as he had with his previous outing, Carney showed a tremendous flair for following the tentative, skipping beat of a developing relationship — not to mention a knack for assembling a fine cast (led here by Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, and Adam Levine) and a soundtrack worthy of repeat listens. “Carney deserves great credit for the movie’s clever, layered structure, and for resisting a few obvious plot turns along the way,” wrote Moira MacDonald for the Seattle Times. “Lightning doesn’t strike, but sunshine works, too.”
As the title of his latest feature suggests, Judd Apatow knows funny people — and he has a knack for working with his comedic leads at exactly the right time. After helping Steve Carell and Seth Rogen cross over to superstardom, Apatow added his magic producer’s touch to Jason Segel’s breakout feature, 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which deftly combined the elements we’ve come to expect from Apatow-branded comedies (painfully real humor, uncomfortable nudity) with utterly unique ingredients (singing vampire puppets). The results proved, once again, that if they’re assembled properly, movies that skirt the rim of lowbrow humor can squeeze a couple of hours’ worth of laughs out of even the most highfalutin critics. In his review, the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern echoed Sarah Marshall‘s many accolades when he wrote, “Halfway through I realized that I’d lost most of my standards, maybe under my seat, and was enjoying the erratic evolution of the nonsense.”
Judd Apatow seemed to come out of nowhere with 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, his directorial debut — but the reality, of course, is that his ascension was far more gradual; he landed his first associate producers’ credit with 1992’s Crossing the Bridge, and his name surfaced throughout the 1990s and early aughts in connection with projects both well-received (The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared) and, well, not (Celtic Pride, The Cable Guy). But Apatow’s signature brand of comedy didn’t really reach full bloom until Virgin — and its awkward pauses, creative profanity (“Kelly Clarkson!”), and off-the-wall pop culture gags (Asia! Michael McDonald!) arrived at the perfect moment for a moviegoing public starved for smart adult humor. The result left Steve Carell with a new level of fame, made Judd Apatow a household name, and helped resurrect the R-rated comedy. It didn’t do too badly with critics, either; Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic was solidly in line with the sentiments of his peers when he wrote that Virgin was “a nostalgic, sentimental and wholly bawdy comedy that will make you laugh until your sides hurt.”
Apatow has proven himself a reliable incubator for young comics over the years, and although he can’t take credit for the rise of Amy Schumer, there’s no denying the sharp eye for talent he again displayed when he hitched his wagon to her star for the 2015 hit Trainwreck. Directing from a script written by Schumer, Apatow once again helped assemble a picture offering a distaff twist on the boundary-pushing comedy he’d turned into big business a decade before — and although the story was basically just a gender reversal on the same old story about a lovable lout who finds happiness by growing up and embracing commitment, the end result was charming and well-written enough for the vast majority of critics to forgive the familiarity. In fact, argued the New York Post’s Sara Stewart, “Trainwreck is a corrective to a lot of outdated clichés. It’s very funny and sweet and even a little weepy, and it has maybe the best scene ever filmed of dirty talk gone wrong.”
Having been a staunch supporter of Seth Rogen’s from their days together on the set of Freaks and Geeks, Apatow was already well acquainted with Rogen’s comedic talents even before they teamed up to make a ton of box office cash with Knocked Up — which doubtless had a lot to do with why Apatow was interested in producing Superbad, a high school loss-of-virginity flick in the grand tradition of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie. Superbad‘s premise, which teamed Jonah Hill and Michael Cera with newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse on a quest to secure booze for a house party, may have been embarrassingly familiar, but Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, nonetheless managed to squeeze fresh laughs (and plenty of ticket receipts) from it — not to mention kudos from critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who wrote, “for pure laughs, for the experience of just sitting in a chair and breaking up every minute or so, Superbad is 2007’s most successful comedy.”
Schlubby dudes that inexplicably manage to score with babes have been a comedy staple for decades, on screens both small (Newhart, According to Jim) and silver (everything Woody Allen has ever done). Into that rich tradition stepped 2007’s Knocked Up, Apatow’s wildly successful directorial follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which paired rumpled slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) with gorgeous E! Network employee Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) for a look at what can happen when you head to a club, have a few too many drinks, and don’t give a lot of thought to who comes home with you. (This is Hollywood, of course, so what ends up happening is everlasting love, but not before a lot of funnier, more unpleasant consequences.) An enormous box office success, Knocked Up kickstarted Rogen’s career, cemented Apatow’s standing as a purveyor of fine adult comedies, and earned the adoration of critics such as Stephanie Zacharek of Salon, who called it “Hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we’ve done so.”
Apatow made a name for himself with crass humor largely brought to life by man-child protagonists, but the bros took a back seat for 2011’s Bridesmaids, in which director Paul Feig corralled a crew of hilarious ladies — including Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo) — to depict their bawdy misadventures during the days leading up to a wedding. After helping make the box office safe for R-rated comedy, Apatow helped prove audiences were just as willing to turn out for grown-up laughs of the female-driven variety — and nearly $300 million in receipts later, the end result looked like the beginning of a paradigm shift in Hollywood. “It’s not a movie for people looking for a decorous night at the movies,” admitted the Newark Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty. “It is a film, though, for folks eager for some good dirty jokes, some refreshingly real female characters – and, just maybe, a new comic voice.”
With this weekend’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Seth Rogen continues a busy year that started with Kung Fu Panda 3 and will find him returning to theaters in just a few short weeks with the animated Sausage Party. In honor of all that activity — and a filmography that’s grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade — we decided to dedicate this week to taking a fond look back at some of the hardworking Mr. Rogen’s best-loved efforts. It’s time for Total Recall!
Unlike a lot of actors who end up starring in films or TV shows about high school students, Rogen was still just a teenager when he responded to the casting call for Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks. It turned out to be a fateful decision: landing the role of Ken Miller on the sadly short-lived series led to a productive friendship with Apatow, who offered Rogen a role in his follow-up show, Undeclared, and then absorbed him into his so-called comedic “frat pack” after that series also met an untimely end. For Rogen fans who want an early look at the future star in his formative years, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared offer a glimpse of what was to come — and for the rest of us, it’s just really entertaining television.
The R-rated comedy went through some lean years in the 1990s and early 2000s, but by the middle of the decade, studios were willing to bet on grown-ups wanting to laugh again, and Judd Apatow — and, in turn, Seth Rogen — gave them plenty to laugh at, starting with 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Rogen plays second fiddle here, appearing as a pot-smoking friend and co-worker to Steve Carell’s titular paragon of chastity, but this is no ordinary supporting role — not only does he get some of the movie’s most memorable lines (including a particularly quote-friendly exchange with Paul Rudd’s character), but he earned a production credit on the film, showing some of the behind-the-scenes acumen that has helped make him more of a budding mogul than your average 26-year-old movie star. Whether or not people went to see it for Rogen, The 40-Year-Old Virgin was a huge hit, making more than $175 million at the box office, and critics enjoyed it too: The Globe and Mail’s Jason Anderson spoke for many of his peers when he wrote, “If only losing it was so good for everybody.”
Two years after helping Steve Carell break a 40-year streak of sexual inactivity, Seth Rogen played a character on the verge of a different sort of threshold — namely, fatherhood — in Knocked Up. The movie also presented a career Rubicon of sorts for Rogen; after playing a secondary character in Virgin, he moved into the ranks of unconventional comedic leading men with Knocked Up, starring opposite Katherine Heigl as the ambition-deficient half of a couple thrown together by the unplanned results of a one-night stand. It was Rogen’s fourth project with Judd Apatow, and the basic, seemingly effortless likability that the director had seen in his star since their Freaks and Geeks days resonated with audiences — to the tune of nearly $220 million in box office receipts — and helped earn Knocked Up some of the best reviews of the year. Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek was one of the many critics who found it Fresh, praising what she saw as “a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we’ve done so.”
It isn’t at all uncommon for high school buddies to daydream about growing up and making it big together — or for aspiring screenwriters to pen their first scripts before they’re old enough to vote. Most of them don’t have the patience to nurture an idea for over a decade, or the luck necessary to take your idea to the box office — but that’s exactly what Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg did with Superbad. Of course, it didn’t hurt having a pair of leads as buzz-friendly as Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, or being able to introduce Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the one and only McLovin — but Superbad‘s real strength lies in the way Rogen and Goldberg’s sweetly funny script blends honest moments with gross-out gags and absurdist humor (including a surreal extended cameo from Rogen and Bill Hader as a pair of spectacularly incompetent police officers). At 87 percent on the Tomatometer, Superbad received no shortage of love from critics like Roger Ebert, who pronounced it “A four-letter raunch-a-rama with a heart.”
After channeling the spirit of the 1980s teen comedy for Superbad, Rogen and his screenwriting partner revisited another of the decade’s favorite genres for Pineapple Express: the action buddy comedy. It was marketed as a stoner comedy, and while it certainly contained a fair amount of weed-themed humor, Express was essentially an homage to such squabbling-friends-in-peril classics as Stir Crazy and Running Scared — although it bears pointing out that none of those movies had the benefit of a brief, spectacularly profane appearance by Ed Begley, Jr. Critics weren’t unanimous in their support of the $101 million hit, which starred Rogen and James Franco as a ganja-loving process server and his dealer on the run from a lunatic crimelord — and the theme song, sadly, did not result in a “Back in Time”-sized hit for Huey Lewis — but most scribes agreed with TIME’s Richard Corliss, who deemed Express “A comedy that brings a nicely deflating note of realism to action-film mayhem, as well as being one of the few drug movies you don’t have to be high to enjoy.”
Cancer, generally speaking, isn’t all that funny. So kudos to screenwriter Will Reiser for finding the humor in his own diagnosis — and then using the experience as the grist for 50/50, a dramedy about a pair of best pals (played by Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose relationship is irrevocably altered after one of them learns he has cancer. Director Jonathan Levine’s deft handling of the story’s tonal shifts keeps the movie from straining for laughs or straying into mawkish territory, while Rogen offers able support for Gordon-Levitt as the best friend of a guy who’s fighting for his life. “What ensues is Beaches meets Pineapple Express,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams for Salon. “Which, I’ve got to tell you, is pretty much what living with cancer is like.”
Although he’ll probably always be best known for his comedic roles, Rogen’s a fine dramatic actor when given the opportunity. Case in point: 2012’s Take This Waltz, a quiet look at domestic ennui from director Sarah Polley. Here, Rogen stars as Lou Rubin, a guy whose seemingly idyllic marriage to freelance writer Margot (Michelle Williams) is knocked off its axis after she finds herself drawn to their neighbor (Luke Kirby). “In the end,” wrote Michael O’Sullivan for the Washington Post, “it’s a story of misplaced faith. In what? Not love exactly, but in the rush of infatuation, and the illusion that this feeling can be maintained, indefinitely, without crashing.”
We’ve seen plenty of movies about the end of civilization, but they’ve all focused on the apocalyptic problems of ordinary people while neglecting to imagine what those last few days on earth might be like for celebrities. Enter This Is the End, which imagines what it might be like if disaster struck Los Angeles while James Franco was hosting a house party. Featuring Franco, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride — among plenty of others — playing fictionalized (and generally obnoxious) versions of themselves, it combines a fresh take on the apocalyptic comedy with the fun of watching movie stars make fun of themselves. As J.R. Jones argued for the Chicago Reader, “Their big joke is to literalize the Book of Revelations, but snaking around this is a biting contempt for the entertainment business, their own bad movies, and the social privilege these confer.”
Neighbors is built from an assortment of parts that will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a snobs-vs.-slobs R-rated comedy — yet the sum total works anyway, thanks to the efforts of director Nicholas Stoller and an overall charming cast. Rogen and Rose Byrne star as Mac and Kelly Radner, homeowners who decide to fight back after their lives are made miserable by the occupants of the frat house next door (led by Zac Efron), setting off a suburbanite battle that manages to gleefully offend while remembering to keep its characters somewhat identifiably human. As Betsy Sharkey put it for the Los Angeles Times, “This raunchy unrooting of a settled suburban idyll exposes the considerable angst of emerging adulthood with a kind of scatological fervor designed to elicit oodles of inappropriate laughs.”
During the years following Steve Jobs’ death in 2011, the market was flooded with all manner of product devoted to analyzing the life and career of the Apple co-founder — to the point that, when Steve Jobs arrived in 2015, it might have seemed to many filmgoers like just another rehash of an already overfamiliar story. Which is unfortunate, because aside from its bad timing, this Danny Boyle-directed biopic has a lot going for it — including a script by Aaron Sorkin and an ace ensemble cast led by Michael Fassbender and supported by Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and (as Jobs’ fellow Apple founder Steve Wozniak) Seth Rogen. “The dialogue crackles with wit, anger, and passion,” wrote James Berardinelli for ReelViews. “By matching Sorkin’s words with Boyle’s style and Fassbender’s talent, Steve Jobs has hit the trifecta.”
In defense of the blockbuster, Rotten Tomatoes offers you Best Summer Movies, a countdown of the highest-rated wide releases to hit theaters during the hot season since the release of Jaws in 1975. We’re using a weighted formula that takes the Tomatometer, the number of reviews, and the year of release into account. In order to qualify, each movie needs at least 20 reviews, and to have been released wide in the months between May and August. Enough talk: grab an extra large soda and a bucket of popcorn and dive into RT’s Best Summer Movies!
Richard Curtis has a plan. “What I’ve decided is to choose recent films,” he explains to RT. “I do think that often people get stuck in always picking the five greatest films of all time, films they saw between the ages of 17 and 22, because that’s when you’re forming your opinions. I think I’ll talk about modern films, which aren’t necessarily the greatest films ever made, but are five great films.”
On the small-screen, he’s Britain’s ruling king of comedy, giving us the ultimate history lesson through the various series of Blackadder, and defining comedy for the 80s and 90s through BBC favourites Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley and Spitting Image. In 1985 he founded Comic Relief, which has raised £80m for good causes this year alone.
Read on to learn about the five films he can’t do without.
“Very apt for now, because I think it’s just come out on DVD. I’m scared of horror films, and hardly ever see them, but I was just so haunted by the scene at the end at the swimming pool, about which I will say no more because my brain is still trying to work out what happened there. It just shows how, if you’ve got a really low budget, and a really serious intent, you can make people feel uncomfortable. It’s a weird, spooky, melancholy Swedish love story about vampires, which is a big subject at the moment, but it’s hard to imagine a better vampire film. So that would be my number one choice — delightful, strange and disjointing.
“That will be the only horror movie on any list of mine. The first time I saw The Exorcist, I had to sleep with the lights on for about four years, so horror is not for me.”
“It seems to me that Sofia Coppola is incapable of producing an ugly frame; it’s just completely beautiful, from astonishing first shot to the final whisper. I think that Scarlett Johansson can be just fabulous, and in that she’s just fabulous, plainly beautiful all the way through. She was great in Match Point too, so very good. She gives that dreadful feeling of somebody that will weigh you down forever. And on top of that it’s a genuinely funny film, its got those fantastic bits, particularly the bit where [Bill Murray] is recording the ads, and it really is a comedy. And yet Bill Murray is so melancholy; so sad. After spending all my life in comedy, where you’re aware of all the grief and melancholy that accompanies being thought of as a charming and amusing person, I think it’s an almost perfect film, I think I’d put that in my top ten favourite films of all time. I love that film.”
“I don’t know why because I’m almost never in Los Angeles, but I went to the premiere of Knocked Up. Some cousin of Judd Apatow‘s was going to propose to his girlfriend, but was shy, so what Judd did was brought up the cousin and his girlfriend onto stage and Jack Black hid behind, knelt on the floor behind the cousin, and very noisily proposed to her. So the first time I saw the film I was in a very good mood having had such a brilliant start. But Knocked Up, like The Hangover which is also wonderful, is full of really really funny things; particularly the friends. When that group of friends is together, everyone has a sort of weird idiosyncratic joke which is perfectly expressed every time they appear, from the guy with the beard downwards.
There are so many other funny things — when Kristen Wiig is rude to Katherine Heigl when she gets her job, and she’s going on about how lucky she is to get the job, it’s completely hilarious. Both Seth Rogen and Katherine are so charming and funny, and it’s so modern, on the edge and hard; a real romantic film. I think that if romantic comedies are meant to be romantic and funny, then that’s a perfect example. It’s very relaxed and at ease with itself, and doesn’t try too hard, or doesn’t seem to be trying very hard, and I think that’s very much to do with how Judd makes his movies. I’m sure he knows exactly what he wants, but it does have a slightly improvisational edge to it, because he does work with people that he knows very well, so there’s a naturalness to it, and I think it’s a great modern film. I haven’t seen Funny People yet, but I have very high hopes for it, I’m looking forward to it a great deal. “
“This is one of my favourite films, and I’m going to almost insist that you say in this article that people must go and watch a song called Carol Brown, from the new series of Flight of the Conchords. It’s been directed by Michel Gondry, and it’s just so amazing; for the rest of the episode you can’t really see that it’s him, but up comes this dazzling thing. I just think for a movie with such a massive concept, that idea, that sort of fantasy, should be done by being completely realistic. In a way it’s like Let the Right One In – the office where they alter your mind feels like a ghastly dental surgery. So you’re in this weird mixture between something that feels terribly realistic, with Kirsten Dunst jumping up and down on a bed, absolutely normal, and yet it’s completely freakish and odd and had these spectacular special effects in it. I love the sort of downbeat-ness of the love story — the fact that, really, they’re sort of right for each other, but only because they’re not right for anyone else. I think it’s a genuinely great fantasy movie, a great love story, and Kate Winslet‘s hair is, after all, blue, so that’s obviously a good reason for seeing it. You’ve been on this massive ride, and it gets back to these people in a corridor, which I suppose is like — if you land on the moon, there’s just you on the moon, and I think there’s something profound about the whole thing.”
I’m going to break my rules for this one, and just put in one old movie. I still think that Animal House is misunderstood, although I do increasingly read about a generation of comedians saying it is the great film. Because I think it’s a brilliant comedy, with brilliant acting, with everybody at their best – Karen Allen at her cutest, Tim Matheson at his handsomest, John Belushi at his most mono-syllabic. So these extraordinary comic performances with just a series of amazing scenarios with amazing set-ups with the horse and the chainsaw, the dead girlfriend, them going to the toga party, and just everything about it. It’s boiled down to the funniest joke scenarios that there could possibly be. That fantastic Elmer Bernstein score, which could be from Patton.
“It seems to me like a really great, classic, funny character movie hiding in wolves clothing, pretending to be a big stupid old generic college movie, but it actually invented the genre, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a funnier version of those movies. Certainly when I was doing The Boat That Rocked, it was M*A*S*H on the one hand – very casual, conversational, just guys doing a weird job – and Animal House on the other – with big characterisations and set-pieces.. So we’ve got four moderns and one slightly older. Can I have one more? Am I allowed? Just for sorrow?”
I think we can let you have another film.
Richard Curtis: OK – The Son’s Room by Nanni Moretti. He was this kind of comedian when younger, and was always called Italy’s Woody Allen, and in a way he’s fulfilled that promise, because Woody Allen also made some very profound films. The Son’s Room is an amazingly gentle, completely sorrowful movie, which I don’t even know whether or not to recommend. It’s full of sadness but everyone who is thinking of having a family should see the film so that they know the risk, and everyone who has got a family should see the film so that they understand how in the middle of the most normal conversational world, sorrow can hit you. But it’s got the best music of any film I’ve seen and it’s got this Brian Eno track at the end. The movie can’t be resolved because it’s about grief that never ends, but somehow the music acts as some way back to normality. So I think The Son’s Room is the film I’ve been most struck by in a way, over the last ten years, the most truthful film I’ve seen.
Music in a film is obviously very important to you…
RC: Yeah, I don’t know. Strangely I watched The Godfather the other day, and the Godfather Soundtrack is extraordinary, it never stops. It’s either jazz music or orchestral music or exciting music, he never lets it go, and that’s the way he keeps the pace up. So I always wanted The Boat That Rocked to be an ecstatic movie. I remember at the end of Bridget Jones, the second one, where we were trying to choose which of the three songs to put at the end where she’s running after Colin Firth – in the end I just said, “Put them all in. Put all three. Let’s have Beyonce, let’s have The Shirelles, and let’s have Barry White.” So I like the idea of going for it, wall-to-wall. And in a way I’ve always thought of my films as being like a Madness album or like an ABBA album, full of delightful little scenarios and very high spirited bursts of things.
But as a writer, just as sort of autobiographically, I listen to music all the time while I’m writing. It always cheers me up and always lifts my spirits, and it always has. On The Boat That Rocked I just wanted to make a film about that feeling of what it’s like to be exhilirated day and night by pop music.
Does the music that you’re listening to end up in the movie when you’re writing?
RC: Yes, but the weird thing is when the music doesn’t. I wrote the whole of Love, Actually listening to one song, which is The Loving by XTC, which is a huge orchestral song about everyone in the world being full of love, but I didn’t put it in the film. Notting Hill was based around two songs, one of which was Wasting Time by Ron Sexsmith, and the other – very oddly I used to listen to it all the time because it exactly represented the pitch of the emotion I wanted in the film – was a version of Downtown Train by Everything But the Girl. That was what I wanted the film to feel like. I used that as the pattern and then threw it away, because there wasn’t actually a place for it in the film. But I often get the mood of what I’m writing from pop music.
Did you have any problems with rights for any of the songs you wanted to use in The Boat That Rocked?
RC: No. With The Boat That Rocked, we had a bit more money, so we got most of what we wanted. Some songs you just couldn’t get because they wanted something like a million pounds – those were the acts who just didn’t want their songs in movies. When Hugh Grant dances in Love, Actually, we wanted a Michael Jackson song we couldn’t get, because it was about a million pounds to use.
But on the whole, these days, I get what I want. My bad memories of The Tall Guy, the very first film I made, are thankfully in the past. It was meant to be structured around three songs by Madness. It was meant to start with Yesterday’s Men, go to The Sun and the Rain, then end with It Must Be Love, and that was the shape of the movie. But they could only afford one song, so we only had It Must Be Love, which was a great disappointment.
There’s a very funny bit in that movie where Jeff Goldblum sits down and listens to a radio and he’s heartbroken. He switches it and on comes a really sad song like Let the Heartaches Begin, so he switches it again and on comes another one called So Sad or Cry in the Rain or something, but if you listen carefully, they’re all sung by my friend Philip, because we couldn’t afford any of the songs. We had to spend an hour in a studio to do one impression of Long John Baldry and one of the Everly Brothers. So in the old days we couldn’t get what we wanted, but now it’s easier.
The Boat that Rocked might be the first film I’ve seen with a double-CD soundtrack.
RC: And I don’t think that’s all of them either – we’ve had to leave out one or two songs from the middle of the movie that haven’t made it onto the soundtrack. But yeah, it was very passionate. What you realise when you’re making a film like that is that people do love their pop music, and as people are finding out now at festivals, living with pop is a great way of leading your life. When we made the movie, everyday when we went out on the boat, all 140 of us, and they blared pop music for an hour. The moment it was lunch we would put it on over the huge speakers, and on the way home we put in on the speakers, and it was an idyllic life.
And you were working with Bill Nighy, who we know is a huge music fan – that would have been fun…
RC: Yeah, Bill loves his pop music. He’s obsessed, at the moment, with a guy called Maxwell, who he says is a great genius, and has just had a huge hit in America. What was nice was that there was one or two songs that I picked that nobody had heard of, like Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells and All Over the World by Francoise Hardy. Everybody had one or two things they were absolutely delighted to meet in the film. And that was my aim, to have a mixture of very high-profile songs and songs that people didn’t know as well. What’s next for you as a director?
RC: I’m doing a huge range of things, but I think my next movie is probably going to be a film about time travel, but it’ll be quite complicated so it’ll take a while to work out.
Lots of paradoxes to figure out?
RC: I’m not going to worry about things like that, but there are always going to be issues!